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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Kids can learn about planning and strategy in this challenging and complicated match-3 puzzle game. A complex system where players must choose which color of tiles to match based on the colors of their teammates and the enemies they're fighting is combined with an empowering matching system that allows forward-thinking players to make multiple matches each turn. It takes a while to figure out, but once players have a feel for it they'll begin to realize how tactical the action is and how randomly sliding tiles will rarely result in a win. Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition encourages kids to think strategically and rewards skilled play.
Standard only-you-can-save-the-world themes. Encourages kids to consider actions before doing them. Rewards thoughtful, strategic play.
Positive Role Models
Players can choose a male or female protagonist, distinguished only by appearance. Both are strong, confident, using wits to command allies in battle.
Ease of Play
Battles demand tactics, forethought, eventually becoming quite complex. But the game does a good job of slowly introducing new elements, gradually ramping up challenge.
Violence & Scariness
Colorful fantasy creatures make attack movements but never actually make contact with enemies. Hits register with flashing lights, impact sound effects. Defeated enemies assumed to be knocked out, never killed.
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Products & Purchases
Melds two popular gaming properties. May entice kids to seek out other games in each brand.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition is a tactical match-3 puzzle game with mild violence. Fantasy creatures including dragons and spiky-backed turtles attack enemies with each match made on the play grid, but they don't actually make contact with one another. Successful strikes involve flashes of light and impact sound effects. No characters die or appear seriously injured. Parents also should note that this game supports the Nintendo 3DS StreetPass feature and that kids will be able to create a text name and very short message to be shared with others -- including strangers -- who play the game as they pass them on the street.
Is It Any Good?
Unlike many modern match-3 puzzle games, Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition isn't a free-to-play game with in-app purchases, a genre frequently associated with imbalanced play that encourages players to pay to win. Rather, it's a challenging but balanced game that urges players to think strategically and that rewards skill. Its complex puzzle/battle system pushes players to think through each move before executing it, while providing loads of ways for a player to grow each member of a team and make them feel like his or her own. It's surprisingly strategic and wonderfully empowering.
The big question for most players will be which of the two games to play first. Die-hard Mario fans should enjoy the Italian plumber-themed edition, which has little in the way of story and instead places its focus on keeping players in puzzles populated with pleasantly familiar characters such as Bloopers and Buzzy Beetles. Fans of games such as Pokémon, on the other hand, may appreciate the freely explorable world and chatty story of Puzzle & Dragons Z, which features a young apprentice capturing monsters, training them, and deploying them in battle. Regardless, both games offer a very similar -- and quite satisfying -- puzzle-game experience.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.